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Eat at Your Own Risk

Wherever I go, I’m usually the one at the table to point out the most unusual dish to order. Kangaroo, cuy (commonly known as guinea pig), chicken hearts, beef tongue, fish roe; I pride myself on food exploration. But the photo stories below challenge even my open-mind-open-stomach mantra, and cause me to ask myself, “Would I actually eat that …?”

The stories shared here represent connections to other cultures, to our senses of adventure, and notably, to the origins of foods we eat. You won’t find any pre-packaged foods below, or shrink-wrapped cuts of meat. As hard as many of these are to look at or imagine consuming, they’re in many cases realistic, healthy, and sustainable.

Brace yourself for a crazy culinary ride, and view at your own risk.”

—Fiona Tang, Head of Outreach at Foodspotting

Editor’s note: This showcase was a fun collaboration with a group of talented food people I met through Pictory’s creative retreat around food, Eat Retreat. A big thank you to Fiona Tang of Foodspotting, Julie Morelli of Letterform, and Lily Mihalik of the Ration. Follow the new Eat Retreat tumblr blog if you’re interested in knowing more about the event and the attendees.

Published August 3, 2011

Intro and Guest Curation Fiona Tang for Foodspotting

Guest Design Letterform

In Partnership with The Ration

Photo Tyler Sharp

Midnight Snacks

Midnight Snacks

Wangfujing Street in Beijing was so lively and full of energy that it gave me a temporary idiotic bravery to try anything. Before I could process how I would eat these skewered scorpions, the vendor had finished grilling each individual stick and handed them over to me. Verdict? They definitely tasted better than they looked.

Photographer: Victor Sutan

Victor enjoys interpreting stories from photographs, when he is not looking at things in binary numbers.

Wriggly and Bubbly

Wriggly and Bubbly

We toasted the new year with deep fried worm, washed down with champagne, at a club in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Despite the crunchy exterior, the center was soft and chewy.

Photographer: Simi BDass

Ten years ago I set a goal to visit 30 countries by my 30th birthday, and along the way I have been eating everything in my path.

Sweet Home Alabama

Sweet Home Alabama

Last April, I went down to Alabama to do volunteer work with some churches. Overall, the food I ate there was delicious, but there was one dish I couldn’t bring myself to wash down with a Coke and french fries: fried turkey penis.

Photographer: Carolyne Hall
Dear @Pictory:

Meat from beaver (during a 6th grade school trip to a stoneage museum back in the 90’s). That still grosses me out today.”

Snack Attack

Snack Attack

In Thailand, bugs such as crickets, grasshoppers, and worms are sold on the street as tasty treats. After a friend mentioned that crickets tasted like BBQ potato chips, I was tempted for a taste, but had just sampled fried pig intestines moments beforehand. While looking at the piles of crunchy creatures, I just couldn’t stomach another “fascinating food” choice that evening.

Photographer: Sasithon Pooviriyakul

Sasithon is a born and bred New Yorker. She was introduced to her first camera over ten years ago and they’ve been best friends ever since.

Gill to Tail

Gill to Tail

On a day that seemed more like magic than reality, I found myself in a backyard in Napa Valley full of amazing chefs and hundred-year-old Zinfandel vines. Chef John C. Fink, known for his skill with whole beast preparation, suggested “fries with eyes,” little fish battered and fried and eaten whole. I was a little hesitant at first when I saw the crispy critter staring back at me but I dug in anyway, and man was it worth it.

Photographer: Tristan Wheelock

I’m a freelance photographer and multimedia producer currently based in Brooklyn. I’ve recently become obsessed with film, street photography, and yoga.

Only Have Eyes for You

Only Have Eyes for You

During our two years teaching English in China, my wife and I quickly learned how to eat a whole fish with chopsticks and spit the bones out gracefully (a habit we came to embrace). We also learned that since eating the fish’s eyes is good luck, plucking them out and offering them to your significant other is a sign of affection (a habit that didn’t catch on so quickly).

Photographer: Shelby Karns

Shelby Karns is a photographer based in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Dear @Pictory:

Zebra. Delicious, sweetish meat.”

Dreaming the Future

Dreaming the Future

In Africa, many people are superstitious. Even in countries that are predominantly Christian or Muslim, they still adhere to some of their traditional tribal beliefs, and in some cases, black magic.

As we were coming back to our camp in central Tanzania one day, we found that a pack of vultures had somehow gotten into the supply shed, and were eating some of the camp’s meat. Our guide shot one of them, and hung its body up on a tree to deter the rest from coming back. One of our trackers insisted that he have the vulture’s head, and once it was removed, treated it very carefully, and even muttered what sounded like small prayers. When I asked him what he meant to do with it, he said, “I will boil the head in a pot, drink the broth, and dream the future.”

Photographer: Tyler Sharp

Tyler Sharp is a photographer, writer, and videographer. His love and passion for photography was rekindled by recently attending Phoot Camp in Marfa, Texas.

Don't Chicken Out

Don’t Chicken Out

As we adventured through the local alleyways of Chengdu in southern China, we stumbled across an enticing aroma that made our appetites bulge in anticipation. It came from a small family-owned restaurant that had never housed foreigners before. Because of the language barrier we couldn’t read the full menu, but sharp hand motions and choppy translations led us to a victory feast of Chinese specialities. This bowl of soup came with the whole chicken, beak and all, included.

Photographer: Alice Yen

Alice Yen is an undergraduate and aspiring foodie at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and has conducted fieldwork research in southern Africa, the United Kingdom, and most recently, central and southern Asia.

There's Always Room?

There’s Always Room?

My family went to Japan over Christmas break. On our first night in Tokyo we went to a restaurant where we were given a complimentary “fish jello.” This very salty, fishy, and squishy dish was unlike anything we had eaten before.

Photographer: Gabi Espinosa

18-year-old student from San Diego, Buenos Aires, and Portland with a passion for photography, music, traveling, and art.

Mussel Memory

Mussel Memory

This was the biggest mussel I had ever seen, found in a paella eaten near Sevilla, Spain. I didn’t actually hesitate before eating it — I thought it looked delicious. Three hours later I was in the hospital with food poisoning.

Photographer: Chloe Smolkin

I’m a young camera operator for film and TV in New York City.

Good Eggs

Good Eggs

While sailing south on our way home from Greenland, the ship I was crewing on stopped for a day in the remote Saglek Fjord of northern Labrador, Canada. While on shore, a young boy approached me with a hand full of roe cut fresh from a wriggling arctic char, and dared me to eat some. I ate it, but only after I photographed it.

Photographer: Lily Heyns
Dear @Pictory:

During my trip to the Philippines I met locals that introduced me to Balut (boiled duck embryo), chicken feet and pigs ears.”

This is Your Brain

This is Your Brain

I assume these were pig brains, since there was quite a selection of porky parts spread across this woman’s stall at the Ben Thành Market in Saigon. There were bowls of feet, tails, miscellaneous offal, and the occasional head scattered about. I grabbed a quick snapshot of the counter before she shot me a disapproving glare.

Photographer: Dave Le

I’m a visual designer and photographer living in Oakland, California. When not leashed to my desk I escape to ride my mountain bike in the local hills.

Tail Feathers

Tail Feathers

Most people don’t eat shrimp tails, but not because they’ve seen them through a microscope. These feather-like structures were a complete surprise to me when looking at this crustacean.

Photographer: Caren Alpert

Caren Alpert is a commercial photographer based in San Francisco. Most of her assignments are food related in one way or another. She also teaches Editorial Photography at the Academy of Art.

Prawn King

Prawn King

Being Asian, I’ve definitely tried a wide array of exotic food, from cow tongue to snake to durian fruit. But this was a special occasion. My parents took me back to their ancestral home, Hong Kong, and guided me to a small island popular with locals. Among the simple plastic chairs and tables, multiple open-air “restaurants” served live catches displayed in glass aquariums. This was their most popular dish. Along with the intimidating, prehistoric-looking appearance came an equally appetite challenging name, “li liu ha” or “pissing shrimp.” We had no choice but to order it. Stir-fried with that famous Hong Kong wok-skill, the shrimp didn’t taste half bad … but I couldn’t bring myself to indulge in that alien-looking head.

Photographer: Randolph Fung

I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to think of myself as an aspiring maven, foodie, and shutterbug. My favorite websites include Foodspotting, Yelp, and Flickr.

Eat Me

Eat Me

Walking around the French neighborhood in Shanghai, I found this lovely frog trying to escape from the box. The owner, with a huge smile on his face told me “The frogs have a lot of vitamins, they can put your sex higher and higher, eat one.” No thanks.

Photographer: Luis Cobelo

I live in Caracas, Venezuela. I work for magazines in Spain and Venezuela.

Bovine Boil

Bovine Boil

I spotted this street vendor in Bangkok’s Chinatown cooking a pig’s legs, lungs, heart, liver, and guts. The locals here, mostly senior citizens, usually eat their pork soup with fermented sticky rice, cabbage, and peanuts.

Photographer: Duangmon Chaturapitaporn

A freelance photographer based in Bangkok.

Animal of Origin

Animal of Origin

My first trip out of the country, to China, was a dizzying onslaught of new sights, sounds and smells. During my early morning walks though the street markets, I found that there was very little left to the imagination in terms of butchered meat. In the US, there is such a strong disconnect between what we eat and where it comes from, but here, you could watch the process from beginning to end. Captivating, sure, but as a vegan, I decided to watch them make rice noodles down the street instead.

Photographer: Dave Gnojek

Dave Gnojek is a graphic designer, photographer, jazz musician, and vegan living and working in Lawrence, Kansas.

Dear @Pictory:

The Big Kahuna, a Glazed Donut Cheese Burger! 1500 Calories!”

The Taco Underground

The Taco Underground

If there’s one meal that defines the food culture of California’s Central Valley, it’s tacos. And while I’ve eaten at some divey taquerias, even the dingiest is inspected by the health department (which offers at least a little comfort). Head out on a Friday night, though, and most of those restaurants are closed. The alternative: roadside taco stands—as many as two or three in one neighborhood block, each offering a selection of meats from carnitas and asada to lengua and cabeza. You won’t find record of health inspection, or a sink, or … well, sometimes it’s best not to think about these things. What you will find is a crowd looking for a bite before (or after) a night out.

Photographer: James Collier

I like to eat. I like photographing what I’m eating, and telling others about it.

Dear @Pictory:

Duck tongue, which is apparently common in Taiwan.”

Mature Tastes

Mature Tastes

We ordered a big pargo frito with tostones, or whole fried snapper with plantain chips, for the kids. They wouldn’t touch it but we adults thought it was fabulous.

Photographer: Maria De Las Casas

I’m a professional photographer living in Spain. I like to tell stories through images.

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink

I like pink for my nail or shirt color, but for my food? I asked the vendor at the Grand Palace in Thailand why the Mee Ga-Ti, or coconut milk noodles, were pink. “Because it’s more eye-catching.”

Photographer: Tara Seprita

I’m a strategic planner at an advertising agency in Jakarta. My day job always asks me to make a two-step-ahead plan for brands but in photography my only plan is to be surprised by my surroundings.

Fair Fare

Fair Fare

A pickle dog at the Minnesota State Fair is a pickle that is smothered in cream cheese, then wrapped in pastrami. Quite tasty once you get past its name.

Photographer: Nickey Skarstad

Nickey is an amateur photographer from St. Paul, Minnesota, who is lucky to now call New York City home.

Dear @Pictory:

Alligator in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.”

Tastes Like Chicken

Tastes Like Chicken

While on a road trip along the East Coast of Australia, my friend and I stopped into this pie shop. The treats were deceptively normal on the outside, with the flaky golden pastry you would find at every corner store in Australia. But these pies were definitely not the same on the inside, instead filled with gooey chunky pieces of local ingredients like crocodile and kangaroo.

Photographer: Ariana G.

Ariana is a nomadic girl with a few citizenships, a love of people and people centric subjects; abandoned or not and currently lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand.

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